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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Optimism? Pessimism? Realism? - Personal Reflection

Over the last few years with the economy in the dumps, many of us who have struggled have heard comments about how, as individuals, being more optimistic could help individuals move forward through their economic travails and get back on their feet sooner and headed towards the path to economic success. Some even surmise that our local community is suffering, because of a pervading pessimistic mood that has taken hold in the community like a contagion. I have been chastised time and time again for not being upbeat about this community. Maybe it is just my inherent personality, but I can't get a feel for what these people are saying.

I understand belief systems, I understand devotion, I understand perseverance and endurance... That is what keeps me going. That is what gives me hope that things will turn around. Yes, it is up to me as an individual to keep moving forward and keep challenging myself, but the anxiety and the depressed state of my emotions to me is understandable. I had no problem with making a modest income and not having all of the fancy trappings of life, but the last five years of my personal life have been a struggle; not in terms of making ends meet as much as not making personal economic progress -- closer to old age with nothing to show. I cannot do the physical work that I do when I get much older. And what does this treading water hold for my future?

I believe that intellectually through the necessity of the expansion of my cultural and social understanding that I have grown greatly. We have leaders on the local level all the way up to the top of the pyramid in this nation who think that if you have the opportunity, then you should work yourself to death. In my line of work, working on a line in a kitchen,  you will not live very long if you work 60 hours a week. I used to do it up until a few years ago and it tears your body up and is mentally very stressful -- to the point of physical and mental exhaustion. In the end what I am espousing is that I believe that it has been necessary for my priorities to change.

Maybe it has been a blessing that so many have had to take a step back from the rat race. I have read stories lately about how the labor dynamic in this country has been permanently altered. Productivity is up, because of robotic automation. Jobs have been offshored due to transfer costs related to labor costs versus the bottom line Corporate Profit picture. While this has gone on, since the year 2000, we see the economic realities of a cost of living that has increased by at least 30% (Consumer Price Index), a median household income that in real terms has fallen by 10%, and a United States population that has grown by 10%. None of that bodes well for the economic future of this nation unless their are dramatic shifts in its economic realities.

As I have stated to others, many of us rightfully feel anger and frustration towards the apathy, ambivalence, and status quo mentality of many of the people in this community; who seem to be saying that the economy is bad around here, because we have bad attitudes. I disagree with that assessment and believe that the anger and frustration comes from the bad economy, a lack of vision of many people in this community, impediments by many in decision making positions towards taking action, and a lack of empathy towards those who are less fortunate.

I can tell you that I don't seek pity. I certainly don't want someone patronizing me. All anyone wants is opportunity. Impediments block opportunity. A lack of acknowledgement of those impediments makes the problems we face even worse. 

I try to convey messages of relevance on this blog. I try to provide proper references and give detailed data and statistical summaries of what I proffer here. I also try to fully separate my opinion from the material presentations that are presented. Yes, I do display emotions, because I am a human being; but unlike the Dinosaur media, I don't try to pretend that I am impartial without a rooting interest, because I am an advocate, but I am an objective advocate.

One thing that I believe that we have spread here on this blog is that we must strive for excellence. That means that WE are going to have to take some risks and get out of our comfort zone  I do realize that there are people who are still doing well economically. I know people from every segment of the socio-economic strata. Many of these people are going about their lives business as usual. I am an observant person. I see the cars people drive and many are obviously still going out to dinner and spending lots of money. But I also see the melancholy that has pervaded much of our society. There is a sense that something is missing. Maybe, just maybe, it is that God and spirituality have taken a back seat to material acquisitions. I see people who wear their religiosity on their sleeves, while promoting their personal material badges. I don't believe that those ideals go hand in hand. Think Humility.

When I speak of striving for excellence, I am not talking about the personal attainment of luxuries. I am talking about the overall "Quality of Life" environment that surrounds us as individuals. I believe that the ecosystem in which we live is integral to the excellence of us as individuals. If the people around me are happier, then I am going to be happier. If you are in a room of 100 people and 10 are in a bad mood, then you can still say that "there is always one in every crowd" and the attitude of the room will remain positive. If you have 50 in that room that are upset, then soon another 40 are going to be upset and the tables are going to be completely reversed. When I talk about momentum, this is exactly what I am talking about. Right now we have negative economic momentum in this community and in this nation.

I look to the fashion that has become ingrained in our culture and in some ways I have been a participant in it. This sense of dressing down and not being judged for how one looks. I think a lot of us have done this , because our jobs don't necessitate us being in a uniform or needing to be presentable. In my personal industry, we are around food and chemicals and we are actively working, so anything we wear is going to get ruined fairly soon. But, in saying that, I do realize that this style has become a reality as part of my every day wardrobe and since the dynamics of my personal life have been downtrodden, I have dressed the part on a mostly permanent basis over the last few years.

In my personal life, I have felt the blahs related to this negative momentum that could definitely be described as pessimism. I have gotten tired of being tired and achy. Some of this has been related to the feeling of mortality due to my grandmother's passing, some has been due to the loss of people in my life, some is related to knowing that my life is closer to over than beginning, and a lot of it is related to this survival mode that I have been in that feels like it is never going to end. I have told people that I have learned to embrace my bitterness. Much of this discomfort had caused me to not go to Church over the last several months and that was only snowballing these feelings. So, I made a New Year's resolution to take a stand,  whether feeling like it or not, and get back to church and try to wear a suit when attending.

In the end, it is all about making an effort, even if one is just going through the motions in the beginning. I think for too long, many of us have found every way possible to follow the path of least resistance. I think the path of least resistance, and the false comfort that lies therein, is what has led this nation to where we are today. It is going to take a few of us, who are willing to take a stand, to turn the tide. We are going to have to create some resistance. Discomfort is coming whether we seek it or we wait on its arrival. Embrace the anxiety. It means you are alive.

Drumroll Please !!! - Hickory Metro is the 8th worst place in the United States to find a job. -


Silence DoGood said...

Well written.

Anonymous said...

That chart about the Hickory Area just makes me sick. Its like a gut check. Its so sad to see the community I've lived in my entire life be put on a list of that nature. I know it is all true, but i feel like Hickory has had so many opportunities to grow and recover what we have lost since 2008 and even years before. But we get left in the dust due to our leaders and even citizens being unaware of change and waiting for it to come to them. We are getting left behind by other cities, even in our own region such as Mooresville, Charlotte, Concord...i could go on. I love Hickory and i hope this data proves to be wrong in the future. I just hope people give it a chance and dont give up. Thats why i hate situations like this where our City gets named out on a list such as this because it makes people that much more negative, that much more unhappy, wether its true or not. With data like this we can't expect to grow with new citizens and jobs. All this does is provide another reason for companys and people to move away or just not move here to begin with. Even if there are opportunities here, people tend to dwell on the stats rather than the facts now days. I hope i can do all i can along with other citizens here to turn this thing around. God bless.

James Thomas Shell said...

Anonymous, It is all about doing something. Communities have been down before and risen. We can rise, but we have to take actions to arise.

A friend sent me a note and here is what is said, "Someone needs to send this report to each and every one of the elected officials in the Unifour and ask them the burning question; "Is it your intent to bypass the California cities before you will publicly admit that we have a community wide problem that you will personally commit to resolving in a community wide manner?" It seems that elected officials have a blind eye and deaf ear to any problem that is not within their city limits.

We do hope that each of the elected officials is proud that our community of which they have some elected responsibility over has made national news as being the 8th worse community for finding jobs in the United States. I would like to see the HDR reprint this article but I will not hold my breath."

And I responded...

"I am sure that you notice that we are the only city on that list from this region. What they will do is chastise me for being negative. The "We are victims of circumstance." mantra will persist.

As you know this is indiscriminant data, in which the criteria is predefined and we just so happen to fall into the resultant category. They will have a Nixonian paranoia that someone is picking on us. They should understand that we need to take drastic measures, but they are like the proverbial deer in the headlights. They haven't a clue what to do, so they will stand still while the car careens towards them."

... Don't be the deer in the headlights. Even if we are victims of circumstance, we have to take action to change those circumstances. I have talked about solutions on this blog. We have actually seen some of the less risky and inexpensive issues move forward, but others that are considered more risky and will require capital financing are dying on the vine in the name of "low hanging fruit."

We need to get to some of that ripe, sweet fruit at the top of the tree. It is going to be more difficult, but the payoff is going to be much greater.

Anonymous said...

But garbage is still being picked up. Fires are still being put out. And bad guys are still going to jail.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree that we should reach for the fruit at the top no matter what the risk at this point. And it would be absolutely wonderful if that letter could make it to the newspaper or to councils of all of the cities. But chances are it probably wont. I actually had some positive thoughts about the area after our leaders took a trip to chattanooga, tenn. to discuss ways to progress our community and to transform it and rehabilitate some of the older and run down areas. But then i realized that this whole influx of positive ideas was quickly knocked down when i thought of the reality. The reality is we dont accept change well enough in this community, which is what many of our conversations and blogs are about on the hound...change. Its scary to some yes, i understand that. But nothing we have as a community, a state, or a nation would have been achieved by stagnation. We all know this. The fact is we all need to make a collaborative effort to change ourselves and to help change together. I hate to sound so negative because we do have a lot of great things going for us. We have a lot of new european based industries coming, we have lots of infrastructure for companies to use. We have a community college that in my opinion is the most pro active entity in this entire region. They are preparing our community for the change and are retraining many people who onces specialized in other areas. We are making good progress. But see again the media will only report on the bad and never on the good. We have had a lot of jobs created in the Hickory area but you never hear about them unless it creates more than 50 at a time with the exception of the new company in granite falls. There is a lot of new construction going on, not in housing specifically which i know is important but there are many business building and remodeling. Its a start people......its a start. But lets dig in deep and pull out all the stops and boundaries and work together.

James Thomas Shell said...

I agree with some of what was posted above, but I believe that the issue with the local media is what you want to project and not the reality.

The HDR and WHKY report on each and every one of those hires that you mention and they carry the load for local leaders. I don't see any negative reporting by any of the established local media and while I understand what is addressed here on the Hound is defined by some as negative, I believe that we are being objective.

Those jobs that you talk about are definitely a start, and they are a good start, but please realize that those jobs ARE reflected in these numbers. The EDC has done a great job in recruiting industry to this area, no one is faulting them. CVCC and the other local educational entities have been moving us forward in the realm of education and training and the Chamber has created initiatives that could possibly bear fruit in the future. It is a start, but the numbers, which are completely objective, show that over the last decade we have been in the bottom 10% of metro areas with 200,000 or more people when it comes to economic data. I have pointed to this constantly. And those entities above are not elected bodies.

On Hal Row's show this morning, he did exactly what you asked for anonymous, he took time to talk about the all the positives the area has to offer: well trained workforce, community college system, the SALT block/arts/cultural organizations, etc. Then he went on to say that given all the positives, when news like this ranking comes out "we" look to our elected leaders and ask 'what are you going to do about this?' and how this is the wrong attitude to have. He suggested to his listener(s) that next time you see an EDC member, council member, or commissioner you should ask 'what can I do about this?.'

Hal missed the boat on this one. People associated with the Hound have spoken directly to our local leaders and they have refused to listen to what we have brought to them. This has even happened on Hal's show when I (Thom Shell) talked to the Mayor about the loss of our younger generations and he poo pooed the nation and still comes on that show and pushes the retirement community agenda. I addressed the issue of Microlending on Hal's show with the Mayor and the Mayor was against it because of some perceived issue with competition. So Hal, how do we address make these changes, we local leaders act as impediments?

And secondly, why give these people a pass when THEY are the LEADERS! Of course citizens are going to go to our LEADERS and ask 'what are YOU going to do about this?' - AS WE SHOULD! These folks have voluntarily sought out these LEADERSHIP positions and should be expected to at least offer up options to turn things around. They are paid to do just that. Where is the innovation from our leaders? Lead or get out of the way!

Ideally, we'd have several options for the public to debate. Instead, we get ONE idea put forward, adopted without any public discussion, and it's something that won't even address the overlaying problem - jobs!

Think the Tent on Union Square!